Mark Teixeira has been the New York Yankees’ first baseman since 2009. At 32 years old, Teixeira’s physical condition is very important to him, which is why he uses the regular services of his chiropractor, Gil Chimes, who is one of the Yankees’ team chiropractors and who is the clinical director of a thriving practice, Greenwich Sports Medicine, in Greenwich, CT. Teixeira visits Chimes once a week for a two-hour session.

Teixeira says, “Some people would call it anal, but I like things done a certain way.” Like any high-performance Mark-Teixeirainstrument, such as a Lamborghini or a Stradivarius, Teixeira believes the body of an athlete needs top care. He says, “You need to continue to tune it to make sure it’s perfect for every show or game or however you want to put it.”

And Teixeira is adamant about treating his body holistically by eating right (he prefers fish, vegetables, raw juices and smoothies to steak and potatoes) and taking advantage of drug-free therapies. This includes therapies such as chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, Active Release Technique (ART) and the Graston Technique. “When you think about all the anti-inflammatory drugs that are pumped into athletes’ bodies, it’s really sad,” Teixeira says.

Muscular imbalances and repetitive stress can create scar tissue in the muscles and fascia that support them, which can entrap nerves and reduce range of motion. Top athletes such as baseball players are particularly prone to this type of problem, and it can impact their performance. Chimes uses ART regularly on Teixeira. He locates the area of contracted muscle and presses down firmly at precise spots with his thumbs. This makes the knotted muscle or scar tissue relax and release any trapped nerves, relieving pain and restoring range of motion.

Similar to ART, Chimes uses the Graston technique on Teixeira to further release tension and repair damage to the soft tissue. For this, a small metal bar is used to break down the scar tissue that has built up over time.

Teixeira says of Chimes, “If I had my way Gil would be with me every single day of the year. He didn’t travel with the team last year, but if he had, I wouldn’t have had that calf injury, or at least it wouldn’t have been as bad.”

Teixeira has spent the early part of the 2013 season recovering from a tendon injury in his wrist that he acquired during spring training, but his rehabilitation has been going well and he expects to be back in the game any day now.

There’s a curious dynamic at work in youth sports these days. Maybe you’ve noticed?

On the one hand, public health officials are worried about a broad decline in team sports participation among children. According to a recent survey, the number of kids between the ages of 6 and 17 who play organized baseball, basketball, football, and soccer fell about 4% between 2008 and 2012.

And on the other hand, healthcare professionals are also worried about many of the estimated 60 million children in the U.S. who do play organized team sports. They see signs that young athletes may be taking their sports too seriously—training too hard, playing too much and specializing too early in life. The popular media offers many statistics and Young Athletesanecdotes that seem to point in this direction:

  • “While injuries from recreational activities such as biking have fallen over the last decade, team sports including football and soccer saw injuries rise by 22.8% and 10.8% respectively…” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “While concussions account for about 15% of youth sports injuries, experts say many sports carry risks for musculoskeletal injuries, in large part due to increased emphasis on year-round competition, single-sport concentration , and intense training regimens, even for pre-teen athletes.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “Overuse and overtraining are also major concerns… As children become good at competitive sports, there is sometimes an impulse to keep them in the same sport year round, which may not be the healthiest thing for a young athlete.” (HealthDay News)

What’s more alarming to physicians than the number of youth sports injuries is the nature of those injuries. A troubling new pattern seems to be emerging. According to Dr. Amy Valasek, a sports medicine expert at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, only about half , the sports injuries she sees are the sorts of sprains, strains, fractures and concussions that have traditionally been common among young athletes. 50% to 60% of them are related to overuse. Because the musculoskeletal system of children and teenagers is still growing, they may be especially susceptible to these kinds of injuries.    

Unsurprisingly, each sport has its own risk profile when it comes to overuse injuries. For instance, overuse injuries of the shin and knees are most common to runners. Baseball, softball and football players often have elbow and shoulder injuries. Cheerleaders, skaters and dancers are prone to ankle injuries. And gymnasts frequently encounter wrist injuries as a result of the extreme demands their sport places on this particular part of the body.

In addition, doctors say they tend to these types of overuse injuries more often in children who play one sport year-round or play over multiple consecutive seasons without taking a break rather than in those who participate in a variety of athletic activities. Recent research found serious overuse injuries are 2.3 times more common in young, single-sport athletes than they are in more well-rounded athletes, even after accounting for the number of hours committed.

There may be several reasons for the apparent trend in overuse injuries. Experts believe that there’s growing pressure among athletes to specialize in one sport—and sometimes even in one position—at a younger and younger age. They also believe that youth training programs and competition schedules are simply becoming more demanding. At the same time, though, it’s likely that many managers and coaches at this level (not to mention parents) don’t fully understand the risks and don’t work with their young athletes to build healthy training and injury prevention habits. And when they are injured, it’s not uncommon for children to return to practice before their injuries are completely healed.

So what’s the best advice for the parents of a talented (or even just enthusiastic) young athlete?

  • Encourage a wide variety of athletic activities and well-rounded development. Evidence suggests that playing more sports leads to fewer overuse injuries, lower burnout rates and better overall performance in the long run. While there’s no hard-and-fast “rule,” many experts suggest that children and parents avoid specializing in a single sport before the age of 14.
  • Take time off. The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness advises that children practice no more than five days per week and take at least one day off from any organized training. Some experts offer an alternative rule-of-thumb: young athletes shouldn’t participate in a sports more hours a week than their age. The Council also suggests a 2- to 3-month break to recover between seasons.
  • Teach—and practice—injury prevention from an early age. Warm-ups and whole-body stretches should become lifelong habits.
  • Be sure your athlete understands what overuse injuries are, how to recognize them and how they should be treated.

Additional Resources

Intense, Specialized Training in Young Athletes Linked to Serious Overuse Injuries. http://www.newswise.com/articles/intense-specialized-training-in-young-athletes-linked-to-serious-overuse-injuries

Sports Should Be Child’s Play. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/opinion/sports-should-be-childs-play.html

Guidelines for Young Athletes to Reduce Injuries. http://online.wsj.com/articles/guidelines-for-young-athletes-to-reduce-injuries-1416869652

When it comes to healthcare, ultrasound is generally recognized as a useful diagnostic tool that can help doctors visualize the body’s internal structures. However, this imaging technology is sometimes presented as a way to address chronic back pain. Is this claim substantiated? Find out by looking at what the science has to say.

Ultrasound and Back Pain: The Theory

Supporters of using ultrasound for back pain claim that vibrations from sonic waves can help patients find relief. During ultrasound therapy, a small wand is passed over the skin above the painful area. This wand emits ultrasound waves, which vibrate through the tissue. The theory is that these waves produce heat that relaxes tight muscles and improves flexibility, helping to ease pain from compressive disorders such as herniated discs and sciatica. Ultrasound therapy is described as being non-invasive and safe enough to be repeated several times a dayUltrasound-for-Back-Pain

What Does the Science Say About Ultrasound for Back Pain?

A study conducted in 2013 compared the effectiveness of ultrasound therapy and osteopathic manual treatment, a hands-on type of treatment that is similar to what you might experience from chiropractic care. A group of 455 patients with chronic low back pain received six osteopathic manual treatments and ultrasound therapy over the course of eight weeks. The patients who underwent the manual treatment saw a moderate improvement in their back pain when compared to a control group who received “sham” osteopathic treatment. However, no improvement was seen among patients who received ultrasound therapy.

In this same study, patients who underwent osteopathic manual treatments reported being very satisfied with their care throughout the course of their treatment. They also relied on prescription pain drugs less frequently than the control group. These differences were not observed in patients who underwent ultrasound.

Finding the Right Treatment for Your Back Pain

The most recent science concludes that there is very little evidence that ultrasound therapy is an effective method for addressing back pain. If you are living with chronic discomfort in your back, consider reaching out to a chiropractor instead. Chiropractic care focuses on hands-on manipulation and mobilization techniques that relieve pain and restore joint function in the back, neck and other areas of the body. Your chiropractor will also spend time reviewing your medical history and discussing your day-to-day lifestyle with you to help pinpoint the cause of your discomfort. Together you will build a plan to help address your symptoms, reduce the risk of further injury and maintain your overall musculoskeletal health.

While ultrasound therapy may not be an effective treatment for back pain, there are still many options out there that don’t involve the risks of drugs or surgery. There’s no reason to keep living with the pain or limitations of back pain. We can help! Call or visit our office today to learn more about our approach.